Week 11 Grenville notes

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31 Dec 2010
1. Germany’s wars of conquest in Europe, 1939 41
during first 2 years, Germany won series of victories on continent of Europe that staggered world and made Wehrmacht appear invincible
the Wehrmacht used the tactics of speedy penetration by tanks, followed by mechanised infantry and then more slowly by mechanised
infantry and then more slowly by infantry on foot, supported closely by the Luftwaffe; towns were subjected to indiscriminate bombing,
and the terrorised populations jammed the roads to escape the advancing Germans
the Blitzkrieg required careful planning, a well-coordinated command structure, and highly disciplined, well-equipped troops
the armed forces served Hitler’s cause, which they identified with Germanys, with efficiency and the utmost devotion
in September 1939 Poland was conquered; in April 1940, Denmark and Norway; during May the Netherlands and Belgium; and then in
June 1940 the greatest victory of all, France was defeated
with France prostate, Britain withdrew from Europe—in July 1940 the war, so it seemed, was virtually over, an astonishingly short war
rather than the expected long and bloody struggle, leaving Germany victorious
however, the struggle would continue as long as Hitler lived and until Europe was racially transformed and world power was won
Hitler’s public “peace” proposals to Britain and France early in October 1939, after the victorious Polish campaign, were almost certainly
meant for German public opinion—peace terms involving the eventual abandonment of France were unthinkable in 1939
militarily, on land and in the air, the war scarcely got started in terms of real fighting on the western front
the military assumptions about how best to conduct the war were paralleled by political assumptions held by Chamberlain about the war
and its likely outcome—it would be ended, if possible, without great sacrifice of life by imposing a strict blockade on Germany
the British and French governments even considered blowing up the sources of Germanys oil supplies in Romania and Soviet Caucasus
while at sea Britain had the better of the war, serious fighting on land began not on the frontiers of Franc but in Norway
German naval losses were so severe that in July 1940 there was no surface fleet in active service; few lighter warships were undamaged
the most important political consequence of acting too late in Norway was the fall of the Chamberlain Cabinet, and the outcome was that
Winston Churchill became prime minister on 10 May 1940 of a national government joined by Labour and the Liberals
Norway was a serious defeat for the Allied war effort—the Norwegian fjords could now serve as ideal bases for the German submarines
threatening to sever the lifeline of war supplies crossing the Atlantic from the US
the most shattering blow of all was the defeat of France, on whose armies the containment of Germany overwhelmingly rested
the total strength of the German army on the one hand and the French, British, Belgian, and Dutch forces on the other were roughly
comparable, as were the numbers of tanks on each side—arguably the French had the edge in the quality of their tanks and artillery
in short, German victory was due to the brilliance of the amended war-plan carried out in May 1940, its successful execution by the
German high command and the fighting qualities of the well-trained troops, particularly the Panzer divisions
aversely, Allied failure was primarily a failure of strategy—French armies were thrown into total confusion, their generals lost control
over communications and over the movements of whole armies
on 10 May 1940 the Germans launched the western offensive, simultaneously attacking the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg
the French and British troops moved forward according to a plan which, as it turned out, placed them more securely in the noose
on 13 May the Germans broke through on the Meuse
French PM Reynaud phoned Churchill the next day telling him that situation was grave, and on 15th that battle was lost, way to Paris open
first rift now appeared between the British and French conduct of the war
increasingly the French began to blame the British for not throwing their last reserves into the battle
they could not conceive how Britain would continue the war without France
in mid-June 1940, with the imminent withdrawal of France from the war, there were more anxious moments for Churchill
on 10 June 1940 Mussolini—having contemptuously rejected Roosevelt’s earlier offer of good offices—declared war on an already
beaten France; even so the French forces along the Italian frontier repulsed the Italian attacks
France was divided into occupied and unoccupied areas—the whole Atlantic coast came under German control; south and south-eastern
France was governed by Petain from a new capital established in Vichy; the colonial empire remained under the control of Vichy
the course of the war from the fall of France to December 1941 needs to be followed in 3 separate strands: (1) there was the actual
conflict between Britain and Germany and Italy on land, sea, and air; (2) the second strand of the period from June 1940 to the end of
1941 is formed by the growing informal alliance between Britain and the US; and (3) the third decisive strand of these years was the
transformation of the Nazi-Soviet partnership into war which Germany launched against Russia on 22 June 1941
23 August 1939—after Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact had been concluded, Stalin had avoided being drawn into war against Germany
military unpreparedness in 1939 would have made war even more catastrophic for Russia then than in 1941: the West would have
remained behind their defensive line leaving Russia to face the full force of the Wehrmacht
Germanys unexpectedly rapid defeat of Poles alarmed Russians, who extensively mobilised and entered Poland on 17 September 1939
a new Soviet-German treaty of friendship was concluded on 28 September, adjusting the Polish partition in favour of the Germans
from the end of September 1939 to June 1941, the Soviet Union supplied Germany with grain, oil and war materials
until May 1940, when the German victories in the West revealed the desperate weakness of their own position, the British and French
were considering not only sending volunteers to Finland, but also stopping the flow of oil from the Baku oilfields by bombing them
Soviet aggression in 1939 and 1940 was, in part, pure aggrandisement to recover what had once belonged to the Russian Empire and
more, but also to improve Russia’s capacity for defence
Hitler’s decision to launch his war on Russia marks the second turning point in WWII; the first was Britain fighting on and made his
ultimate defeat certain when he failed to destroy Russia militarily in this new Blitzkrieg during the first few months
the Russian war from 1941 to 1945 was a war of dramatic movement, unlike the trench warfare on the Western front—but its effect in
destroying millions of soldiers and huge quantities of material, in the end, bled the Third Reich to death
a series of brief Balkan campaigns in the spring of 1941 ensured that the invasion of Russia would be undertaken on a broad front without
any possibility of a hostile flank
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2. The ordeal of the Second World War
WWII was the last world war to be fought with conventional weapons and the first to end with the use of the nuclear bomb, which raised
the threat that any third world war could end in the destruction of the majority of the human population
WWII also became a new kind of total warfare with the deliberate killing of many millions of civilian non-combatants
the major technical advance was aerial warfare as it could reduce a city to rubble from the air
vengeance on the Allied side was a subsidiary motive for the bombing offensive
the bombing offensive was the only major weapon available to wage a war whose impact would be felt by the Germans until the Allied
military build-up was sufficient to defeat the German armies in the west
during WWII the distinction between combatants and non-combatants was not so much blurred as deliberately ignored
Hitler’s Reich was no respecter of human values of those regarded as belonging to lesser races, or of the lives of the Germans themselves
the “euthanasia” programme was designed to murder “useless” incurably ill or mentally handicapped German men, women, and children
hostages were picked off the streets in occupied countries and shot in arbitrary multiples for the resistance’s killing of German soldiers
yet, side by side with these horrors, the German armies fighting the Allied armies in the west behaved conventionally too and took
prisoners who were, with some notable exceptions, treated reasonably; however, in Russia, the German army became increasingly
involved with the specially formed units attached to the army commands, which committed atrocities on a huge scale
Japanese troops became brutalised—to be taken prisoner was a disgrace; Allied prisoners of war were treated inhumanely by military
authorities, and thousands died; many were employed with forced Asian labour on such projects as construction of Burma-Siam railway
horrors and ordeals, depravity and brutality behind battlefronts, mass murder of millions are an inseparable part of the history of WWII
in Poland, and in Russia, German conquerors displayed a degree of barbarism that has no parallels with Germany’s conduct during WWI
the majority of the Polish people would survive so long as they served their German masters and lost all national consciousness
Hitler, before the outbreak of the war in 1939, could not order the mass murder of German, Austrian, and Czech Jews within Germany
in January 1939 he therefore threatened in his well-known Reichstag speech that the Jews would perish if Britain, France, and the US
resisted his aggression on the continent by unleashing a general war
until Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941, there seemed to be a small chance of a Western peace
Jews in Germany and conquered Europe were still allowed to live; Hitler liked to keep options open: alternative solutions to isolate the
Jews and drive them out of Europe altogether were considered, such as the plan to banish them to Madagascar
by every means available, the Nazis attempted before 1939 to “clear” Germany of Jews by forcing them to emigrate
before the war was over, between 5 and 6 million Jews had been murdered
Nazi ideology was so widespread that it is unrealistic to limit responsibility for these crimes to Hitler and his henchmen
while Germans, soldiers, the SS, and officials were overwhelmingly responsible, they were aided in their work of destruction by some
sections of the conquered peoples of Europe in every country—Poland, France, Austria, etc
the demand of the German authorities that all Jews be handed over for the terrible Final Solution being prepared for them was one of the
deepest moral challenges faced by occupied Europe and Germany’s allies during WWII
in every corner of Europe there were some individuals who risked their lives to shelter Jews
in occupied Europe local police could be found to do the dirty work of the Germans for them
in some cases they would have been shot had they disobeyed, but in other cases the work was done with enthusiasm
only resistance that had the power to actually remove Hitler came from within the army and culminated in the bomb plot of 20 July 1944
officers involved saw that war was lost and hoped by removing Hitler to make peace with Allies while keeping Russians out of Germany
others were less materialistically motivated as they felt that had Hitler been killed, the plot might have succeeded, though Britain and the
US would certainly have refused to make peace on any terms other than unconditional surrender
the Japanese sought to justify their wars of expansion at home and abroad both as self-defence and as fulfilling a mission of liberating
Asia from Western imperialismin its place Japan would build a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere
even before war had been launched a secret conference in Tokyo on 20 November 1941 settled general principle of Japanese occupations
in India, the political leaders sought to make use of the situation to promote genuine independence
of all peoples under Japanese rule, Chinese suffered the most—both in China and wherever communities had settled in south-eastern Asia
the constant emphasis on Japanese superiority, however, alienated the local populations
in 1942 the Japanese had won large territories in Asia at small cost
the Americans prepared their counter-offensive across the Pacific, straight at the Japanese heartland
the fall of the Japanese-held island of Saipan, in July 1944, placed American bombers within range of Tokyo
on 10 March 1945 one of the most devastating air raids of the whole war was launched against Tokyo
on 6 August 1945, for first time, new weapon was used, atom bomb that devastated Hiroshima—destruction and suffering were appalling
a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki 3 days later, again causing great loss of life
WWII was waged simultaneously in Asia, Europe, and North Africa by huge armed forces on all sides, backed by tanks and aircraft in
numbers hitherto unknown and, in its closing stages, with a new weapon releasing the devastating power of nuclear fission
the war caused not only many millions of dead and wounded, but also inflicted on millions more forcible population migrations and
wholesale destruction of towns and villages—a sum total of virtually unimaginable human misery
although few were knowingly murdered, in all almost 2 million Germans are estimated to have died as result of hardships they suffered
the Soviet Union suffered the most: at least 28 million military and civilian people died
Germanys dead numbered between 4.5 and 5 million; only a minority of Jews of those in Europe at outbreak of war survived to its end
for Britain, France, and Italy, WWII did not repeat bloodbath of WWI—Britain 450 000; empire 120 000; France 450 000; Italy 410 000
Yugoslav, Hungarian, Polish, and Romanian losses were heavy; in central Europe, the Poles suffered far more than their neighbours
American deaths on the European and Pacific fronts numbered 290 000
the figure for Chinese deaths was in excess of 10 million; about 2 million Japanese are estimated to have lost their lives in the war
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3. The victory of the Allies, 1941 – 5
war that began in September 1939 was European war, in contrast to world war that ensued when USSR, US and Japan entered in 1941
in Asia, China War being waged since 1937 was separate until it was widened into Pacific War by Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour
in Europe, Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union marks a turning point in the course of the war
but in a deeper sense the global implications of Hitlers attack on Poland in 1939 were there from the beginning
long before Germany declared war on US, US was throwing its support behind Britain and engaging in warfare in battle of Atlantic
in 1940 and 1941 Britain on its own was incapable of inflicting serious damage on Germany
Britain was the only Western European democracy left in 1940
its refusal to accept the apparent logic of the military situation saved post-war Western Europe from suffering the fate either of continued
German overlordship or of a future under Stalin’s Red Army, if, as seems more probable, the Soviet Union had won the war
instead democratic Britain provided the link, and later the base, for an Anglo-American counter-offensive in Western Europe that created
the conditions for recovery free from the totalitarian control of the left or the right
without Britain still fighting from 1940 to 1941, the likelihood of American involvement in the European theatre of the war was remote
the size and destructive capability of the armies that fought on each side during WWII exceeded even those of WWI
behind the fighting fronts, the industrial war was waged, pouring out guns, tanks, aircraft, and ships
the success of espionage and counter-espionage meant that they tended to cancel each other out
on Allied side demonstrable vital espionage success, was breaking of German code machine Enigma, used by Germanys armed forces
Poles had built replica and just before start of war passed its secret to British, who continued deciphering work at Bletchley Park
the intelligence data, codenamedUltra”, thus helped Britain and its allies in the air war, in the Mediterranean and in the North African
campaigns, but most crucially in the battle of the Atlantic
the Allies derived huge advantage from their successful application of science to warfare—radar was in use early in the war in both
Germany and Britain; Germany was probably ahead in its development at the outset of the war
there were different types of radars built—the airborne radar was an indispensable asset to the Allied bomber offensive, enabling the
bombers to pinpoint their targets at night; at sea, advanced types of radar gave the Allies a decisive advantage against German submarines
but scientific breakthrough that did most to shape future was atomic bomb; decision at end of war to use it brought Japanese surrender
Allied scientists from many nations, British, American, French, Danish, Italian, and German too (for German refugees played a crucial
role), made the construction of a nuclear bomb possible—it was eventually in the US that science was matched by the technical know-
how and the production facilities necessary for its manufacture were provided
an early indication of Allied suspicions about likely post-war attitude of USSR was seen in the decision not to share the secrets of nuclear
development with USSR; indeed, despite agreement with Britain, US sought to retain a monopoly on the manufacture of these weapons
in the summer of 1940 it was difficult to see how Germany’s victorious armies would ever be defeated
but by attacking the USSR in June 1941 and then declaring war that December on the US the balance potentially swung against Germany
Allied superiority was only potential in the sense that it depended on Britain and Russia not being defeated
the US would make its military weight felt in Europe only in 1943 and 1944
for Britain danger of invasion finally passed in 1941—with Germany fully engaged in the east, there remained no possibility of mounting
an invasion of the British Isles as well; but this did not mean that there was no longer any danger that Britain might be forced to submit
the conflict at sea, the battle of the Atlantic, was therefore as vital to Britain as the land battles had been to France in 1940
before Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941, Hitler had given orders that American vessels supplying Britain and their escorting US
warships were not be attacked; however, after Pearl Harbour he welcomed the outbreak of war between Japan and the Us, and declared
war on the Americans himself, removing the restrictions on the U-boat war in the Atlantic
by the end of May airpower, improved radar and “Ultra” practically drove the U-boats from the Atlantic
by end of 1943 not only had Germans lost battle at seas, they had also sustained defeats on land from which there would be no recovery
Britain’s warfare with Italy and Germany on land in 1941 and 1942, judged by the numbers of men engaged, was secondary when
compared with the millions of German and Russian troops locked in battle in the Soviet Union
on 22 June 1941 the greatest military force ever assembled invaded the Soviet Union with almost 3.6 million German and Axis soldiers,
3600 tanks, and 2700 planes; this included 14 Romanian divisions
the German army was divided into three groups: north, centre, and south—the north army drove through the former Baltic states with
Leningrad as its goal; the centre army made its thrust in the direction of Smolensk and Moscow; and the south army invaded the Ukraine
purpose of deep thrusts was to encircle and to destroy Red Army in western Russia, and to prevent retreat into vastness of Soviet territory
territorially, Germany also achieved her objective of conquering the whole of European Russia in 1941 and 1942
yet the Soviet Union was not defeated and the Blitzkrieg turned into a war of attrition, during which the greater Soviet reserves of
manpower and the increasing output of its armament industry turned the tide of the war against Hitlers Germany
after the initial and spectacular victories of the battles of the frontiers during the first weeks of the war, when the Germans took hundreds
of thousands of Russian prisoners and whole Russian armies disintegrated, the German generals and Hitler disagreed on which of the 3
offensives were to be the main effort; thus already in August 1941 the basic weakness of Germany’s latest Blitzkrieg became evident
the siege of Leningrad is an epic of WWII—it lasted from September 1941 to January 1944; 61 830 people died from hunger and disease
alone; Germany’s defeats were not due toGeneral Winter” alone, but to the skill and heroism of the Soviet forces facing the invaders
Stalin’s mistakes in carrying on the Russian offensives in the spring of 1942, believing the German armies virtually beaten, led to major
military disasters on the Kharkov front in the south in May and June 1942 and in the Crimea
the world knew Stalingrad marked a turning point in the war—Soviet strength would increase as Germany’s diminished
by the summer of 1943 the Russians had also won superiority in the air, with thousands of planes engaged on each side
Hitler clung to one hope even when surrounded in his bunker in burning Berlin in April 1945, that the “unholy and unnatural alliance
between Britain, US, and USSR would fall apart and Western powers would recognise that he was fighting common Bolshevik enemy
the British position at first was to reject any frontier changes until after the war was over and peace negotiations took place
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